Evolution and the Argument for God from Order

Questions and Lecture and Assigned Paper

William O'Meara (c) Copyright, 1997

If a paper is assigned, the paper should be 600 words:

Sources: Evolution and the Argument for God from Order, including material from Nogar, Chardin, Dobshansky, The Watch in the Desert, and other links from this lecture on evolution and the argument from order.

Your paper should have a clear thesis about the assigned material, with an organized, coherent, and well-reasoned defense of the thesis, along with a consideration of and response to relevant objections to your thesis and its argumentation, and a clear conclusion with a good summary of key argumentation which supports your conclusion and thesis.

In striving to write a reasonable paper for a philosophy essay, a student should avoid the following fallacies:

1. What is the thesis of Nogar's first book?

2. What is the thesis of his second book?

3. Why does Nogar say that without accepting God as the source of evolution human action will be neither fully free nor fully intelligent? Explain.

4. What are the two premises and the conclusion of Nogar's argument for God as the source of order in evolution?

5. If the premises are true, does the conclusion follow with necessity, that is, is the argument valid in the logician's sense? Explain.

6. What is the evidence or analysis for tyhe truth of the first premise?

7. What is the key objection to this first premise?

8. How does Nogar answer this objection? Do you agree with his answer? Why or Why not?

9. What is the evidence for the second premise?

10. How does Nogar's argument compare with Kant's summary of the argument for God from order in the world?

11. What argument from Simpson did Nogar accept after he had completed and published his first book?

12. How is this argument from simpson similar to Kant's key question against the argument from order?

13. Give some details about Nogar's questioning of the human assumption that the world is an order, is a cosmos, whether we investigate the world in astronomy or in subatomic physics.

14. Why does Nogar say that we no not so much need a God who made the world in the beginning and who made it evolve as that we need a God whom people can believe in and trust in their present lives?

15. What argument of Aquinas is Nogar prefering now?

16. How does Aquinas try to defend the key point of that argument, and how does Nogar approach it?

17. What is the contrast between Nogar's approach to order and disorder and Hume's approach? Why does Hume reject Nogar's approach?

18. [Reading notes: Chardin and Whitehead will defend Nogar's overall approach in his first book, whereas Dobhanzsky will reject Nogar's argument in Nogar's first book.] No question for 18.

19. Chardin will reject the view that the evolution of living matter is an exception to the fundamenbtal laws of nature. He will argue that life is a property coextensive with the whole stuff of the universe, not apparent in non-living matter, but apparent in living matter. Are there other phenomena in natiure which are only observable under special conditions?

20. Does Chardin prefer the materialist explanation (natural selection and much chance) or the spiritual explanation (inherent, emergent purposes striving to be realized, in the midst of natural selection and many chance events)? Why does he propose these two answers: the first alternative seems most reasonable for evolution of all living matter except for humans, but the second alternative seems rationally required for the evolution of self-conscious purpose in human activities? (He therefore rejects a pure materialist explanation of the origin of living matter through mere chance and natural selection, because he needs one consistent hypothesis for the explanation of both living matter and human actitites.)

21. Why does Dobzhansky rejects Aristotle's and Chardin's spiritual explanation by appeal to purpose inherent in the species as an explanation of those activities that seem to have such 'wisdom' in them?

22. When does the lack of the inherent purposefulness in living things become strikingly evident?

23. What is Dobzhansky's main point, and why does he hold it?

24. What is science right about and what wrong about, in Whitehead's view?

25. How does Whitehead attempt to refute the materialist (purposeless) explanation of the behavior of living things?

26. The genetic fallacy is an incorrect method of argument that mitakenly evaluates the last stages of a reality only by what is present at its earliest stage in its origin. How does Whitehead argue that the naturalist explanation of evolution might be committing the genetic fallacy?

27. How did Aristotle explain the development of a living being such as an oak tree?

28. In summary, then, in the last paragraph, what is the working hypothesis of Chardin and Whitehead?

Nogar's Two Approaches to Evolution

Raymond Nogar, a philosophical interpreter of evolution, deeply educated in the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, wrote a book in 1962, The Wisdom of Evolution. In this book, he proposes and argument for God's existence as the cause of the purpose and order in this evolutionary universe. But by 1966, he writes a second book, The Lord of the Absurd in which he rejects the argument from order just as Hume did, because the world is not just order and goodness, but also disorder and evil. In these notes, we shall examine the argument of his first book and then present his rejection of that argument.

In the first book, Nogar proposes that man's Socratic commitment is best fulfilled by accepting God as the Lord of Wisdom. He refers to Julian Huxley's interpretation of evolution: "'Anything which permits or promotes open development is right; anything which restricts or frustrates development is wrong."' Nogar interprets Huxley's statement in accord with Dobzhansky's view of man's evolution; Nogar asserts that man's future destiny will not be achieved unless he becomes fully human, fully intelligent and free. Nogar goes on to argue that man without God has only a partial perspective in achieving his humanity, the development of his intelligence and freedom. "Human action without account of the Creator and Designer and Governor of nature and its evolution can neither be (fully) free, (fully) energetic, nor (fully) intelligent." (p. 397)

Nogar summarizes his rational, not faith, argument as follows:

The first premise of the argument is crucial; Nogar argues for it as follows: We draw inferences and make argument about natural processes from our own experience. We find that the only way to reconcile discordant processes is by way of governance, that is by way of intelligent direction of the processes to one overall end. An arrow shot into the air is subject to many contrary and discordant processes: gravity, air pressure, wind. When several arrows reach the center of a target, we rule out the possibility of chance causing such an effect. We say that this effect is the result of an expert archer. We cannot conclude to intelligent direction unless we rule out chance. For this reason, the phrase in the first premise "always or for the most part" is of greatest importance. The co-ordination of diverse elements and processes toward a definite end must be accomplished regularly as a law or trend of nature. Otherwise, the coordination is merely an accidental occurrence or chance effect. Once chance is ruled out, there is no other thinkable explanation than intelligent direction.

The principal objection to the first premise comes from those who maintain that nature's laws could be the result of mere chance. Evolutionary development and adaptation, they argue, is made possible by enormous waste in nature, caused by a built-in process of trial and error. Mutation and natural selection suffice to explain all the order and design among organisms.

Nogar agrees that there are chance events in nature and trial and error development of species through mutation and natural selection. Yet he argues that the discordant systems of nature are manifestly coordinated into a larger system that is harmonious.

The second premise of Nogar develops this last point of an overall harmony in the world. The most important and manifest evidence in natural prehistory is the difference between the direction of the processes of the living and the non-living world. In the non-living world, the second law of thermodynamics applies: in every exchange of energy, within a closed system, entropy is on the increase. In popular language, the world is running down.

However, in the living world, the direction is that living things use up energy in order to develop more specialize and more complicated forms of order. In summary, evolutionary prehistory manifest two major discordant and contrary sweeping developments of nature, one is in the direction of randomness and the other is in the direction of orderliness.

Yet this apparent contradiction between the two different directions of physical nature has an overall coordination. If the inorganic world did not have the properties dictated by the second law of thermodynamics, the organic world could not achieve its evolutionary potentialities. Unless living things could use up some of the total sum of the energy development of order in their own life processes. The total amount of energy will according to the law of thermodynamics be evenly dispersed throughout the world rendering change impossible. Living processes hasten this usage of energy. For example, mankind is using up the fossil fuels stored in the earth and dissipating that energy into the cosmos because a living thing never gets the complete energy out of the fuel and food it consumes. Some energy is always lost in heat. Nevertheless, the energy that is consumed is used to make more orderly units of nature in which energy is highly differentiated, for example, warm blooded animals who maintain their body temperatures above the temperature of their environments. Because the basic law applying the exchanges of energy, the second law of the thermodynamics applies also to specialized use of energy in living units of nature, Nogar concludes that the laws of nature constitute one great order.

Hence Nogar concludes that there must be some providential Being by which the universe is governed not only in the static sense of order but in the dynamic sense of a changing, evolving, developing order. God continues to be interested in His Creation. Nogar affirms that "today the most compelling argument for the existence of God, at least as it pertains to the amazing discoveries of scientific research, is argument from nature's order." (p.387-393)

Nogar's argument parallels Kant's summary of the argument:

After writing his first book, Nogar was discussing this matter with Simpson, the naturalist or atheist who is an outstanding biologist; and Simpson showed Nogar that his argument was weak. In his second book, Nogar sums up the point of Simpson: Unless we can show that the world is not infinite in time and space, that the world is not self-sufficient, then we cannot show that the creative force of Divine Intelligence is present, directing our evolutionary world. For, given enough time and space, is it clearly impossible for an eternal world to give birth through the chance causation of living matter to the evolutionary development of intelligent living matter? Nogar now answers, "No." Nogar argues then as the objectors to his argument in the first book did, that the mutation and natural selection can explain the origin of living matter and of intelligent matter.

The rejection of this argument from order by Nogar now is quite similar to Kant's rejection of the argument:

Nogar questions the very order which man imposes upon his experience of the world.:

Having given up that argument, Nogar affirms that we do not so much need a God whom we can admire as the creator of the world because science offers testable explanations of the origin and development of things. We do not need a theoretical explanation of the world from religious belief, rather that we need a God whom we can believe in, trust, and love. "We need to recognize God personally present to us in our day...." For this faith or choice approach, Nogar suggests the following rational considerations as support, although not as conclusive proof:

Nogar is referring to the third argument of Aquinas, the argument from contingency of being. He is suggesting that the emphasis upon order distracts us from recognizing the contingency of beings. There is no doubt that beings that begin to be are contingent upon extrinsic sufficient reasons for their beginning to exist. However, Nogar is not arguing from the beginning to be of thing and people in the cosmos. He is arguing that the continuing existence of the world needs a sufficient ground for its continuing existence which prevents it from falling back into nothingness.

We can reasonably agree to that need for a ground of existence. But the serious question we want to raise is whether this ground of existence, this intelligible explanation for the continuing existence of beings, is intrinsic to the world itself or extrinsic. Nogar himself does not present a rational argument to establish that no finite being can be the ground of its own existence. Aquinas, in the argument referenced above, does try to offer such a rational analysis.

However, Nogar offers here only an intuitive feeling, based upon our awareness that we each can die at any given day, that wouldn't it be better to say that God is the preserving cause of our being since then we are in his Provident Care. The queasy feeling that there may have never have been anything and the question 'Why not nothing?' do suggest that there may be an extrinsic sufficient reason for the world's beings to continue to exist. But the queasy feeling and the question by itself can only serve as the basis for a rational investigation of whether such a question can be answered in philosophy.

A Brief Contrast between Nogar and David Hume on Order and Disorder and The Argument from Order

Hume's reflections on order and disorder in the world emphasize the point that from the mixed occurrence to order and disorder, good and evil, human reason is unable to conclude that the ultimate cause of the universe is endowed with perfect goodness:

Whereas Nogar develops a faith approach to God as the one whom human beings need in a world with a mixture of order and disorder, Hume argues that rationally the most reasonable approach theoretically is that the ulltimate cause(s) of the world's mixture of good and evil that affects humans are neither benevolent nor malicious towards human beings but simply indifferent, his fourth hypothesis.

Philosophies of Evolution: Chardin and Whitehead versus Dobzhansky

Chardin's Statement of the Problem of Interpreting Evolution

The problem of interpreting the relationship of living matter (including man) to non-living matter, Chardin suggests, is similar to the problem of the old physics and new physics. When the Curies announced the discovery of radium, the physicists found themselves faced with a puzzling dilemma: How were they to understand this new element which decayed into another basic element? No basic element had even been discovered that could do so. Was this an anomaly, an exception that had no meaning in the old concept of the laws which old physics had stated? Physicists' solution came to be this: to conceive of matte- in a new way.

Biologists are faced with a similar problem in understanding living matter. Is living matter an anomaly, an exception to the fundamenta1 laws of nature? Is living matter an accident, or does it tell us something about the fundamental, universal laws of the universe? Chardin suggests that biologists should answer in this way: they should treat living matter not as an exception but as something that belongs fundamentally to the universe. Scientists should treat life as a material effect of complexity.

What does Chardin mean by 'complexity'? Complexity is not simple aggregation; it is not an assembly of non-simple elements such as a heap of sand. Complexity is not the simple, unlimited repetition of units such as occurs in crystallization. Rather complexity is combination; it is that particular form of grouping whose property it is to knit together upon themselves a certain fixed number of elements, with or without the secondary addition of aggregation and repetition, within a closed whole of determined radius such as the radius of an atom, the radius of a molecule, the radius of a cell and the radius of a living animal. In other words, Chardin is creating an hypothesis: the universe is composed of units of complexity, some of which are very small such as the atoms and subatomic particles and others which are much larger such as cells and living animals. A complexity is characterized by having (1) a fixed number of elements and (2) a closed whole. Chardin tries to see if his hypothesis can be verified.

Living matter has for too long a time been regarded as an accidental peculiarity of terrestrial matters. As a result, the whole of biology has been left out on its own, with no intelligible Connection with the rest of physics. This can be corrected if life is treated, in scientific experience, as the effect of complexified matter. Life should be treated as a property in itself coextensive with the whole stuff of the universe but which for us only becomes perceptible when complexity exceeds a certain critical value. The living qualities of matter only become knowable when complexity is much more highly complex than the complexity of the atom. If such an hypothesis seems unbelievable, Chardin suggests that we consider that there are other phenomena which are only observable under very special conditions. For example, the speed of a body must approach that of light for the variation in its mass to be apparent to us. The temperature of a body must reach 500 degrees centigrade for its radiation to be visible to us. Is it not, then, reasonable to expect that matter, until it begins to approach a complexity of a very high degree, should appear dead' (though pre-living' would be the better term)' while beyond that degree of complexity the living qualities of matter begin to show forth to our experience.

In this hypothesis of Chardin (which he tries to verify in his writings by the method of the working hypothesis)' biology becomes the physics of the very highly complex. In light of the fact that living matter originated from pre-living matter, physics and chemistry must be re-understood. Chardin's procedure here is to hold that the scientific explanations are based on a decision of which analogy to use. It is the decision of using either non-living matter to explain living matter or living matter to explain non-living matter or both living and non-living matter to explain characteristics of each other. Chardin's decision is not to use the first way but the second and third ways. In Chardin's judgment, the qualities or fundamental truths about the universe reveal themselves in the highly complex material things more than they do in the less complex. Hence for Chardin, physics and chemistry do not totally explain life; rather living matter explains itself and also reveals new universal truths about all matter. Living matter for Chardin explains itself by its complexity (which is the result of inherent purpose in each material thing); and complexity (or inherent purpose) is found to be a working hypothesis which Chardin thinks can be verified of pre-living matter.

Now in order to explain why complexity has gradually arisen in this cosmos, Chardin holds that we must assume the existence and influence of some powerful factor which brings about the complexity just as we need to assume the existence and influence of some powerful factor which brings about entropy in the world. Even today, although physicists can describe entropy or just how much energy is lost in any transformation of energy, they are not yet able to explain why entropy takes place the way that it does in transformation of energy. Thus Chardin is proposing the difficult task of hypothesizing about the powerful factor which brings about complexification in the universe. Chardin considers things the following two hypotheses:

In Chardin's judgment, the determinist driving force of 'natural selection' (the factor in things that forces matter to complexify itself by the statistical operation of chance; natural selection here is not used in the biological sense of survival of the fittest but in the sense of purposeless causality) seems sufficient to account externally for the evolution of living matter. It is only when the problem occurs of explaining human self-conscious purpose, does the materialist explanation falter. For how could purposeless matter ultimately give rise to matter that showed purposeful behavior in man? In Chardin's judgment, the only way to make sense out of human purpose is to hold that unconscious purpose or pre-life is present in non-living matter and that purpose gradually becomes self-conscious as matter complexifies due to the striving of purpose to become self-conscious. Chardin points out in his work, the Phenomenon of Man, that he is very unsure how to coordinate this hypothesis of purpose, as an energy driving matter on to complexify, with the explanations of the physicists which are very successful in their own realm and omit any mention of purpose. But Chardin still holds that the physicists' explanation can no longer be separated from the phenomena of living matter and that a coordinating hypothesis is needed which makes sense out of man's experience of purpose. One part of the coordinating hypothesis which Chardin is proposing is that purpose whether pre-conscious or conscious is a quality of all matter whether non-living or living.

The Position of Theodosius Dobzhansky

Dobzhansky rejects Chardin's hypothesis as "patently undemonstrable by scientifically established facts." (Mankind Evolving, p. 348) Dobzhansky discusses the type of evidence available that might be used to substantiate Chardin's position. Chardin might appeal to the kind of evidence noted in Walter Cannon's book, The Wisdom of the Body, in which he discussed the phenomenon of homeostasis. Homeostasis is a general name for the physiological mechanisms by which a living body responds to changes in its environment in such a way that it continues to live and function normally.

The maintenance of a constant body temperature in man and in other warm-blooded animals is an obvious example of homeostasis. Another example is the maintenance of a remarkably constant concentration of salt in the blood. If too much salt is taken in, the kidneys remove the excess via the urine; if the salt intake is low the kidneys let very little salt escape in the urine. Perhaps the most remarkable of all is the formation of antibodies and antitoxins which localize or eliminate infections.

The "wisdom" of life has impressed, and often dazed, observers from Aristotle to our day. This "wisdom" appeared to be a built-in purpose. Aristotle called this purpose of a species its final cause. But an understanding of this wisdom in scientific terms was far from easy come by, and verbal pseudo-solutions like Aristotle's have been invented again and again. The most persistently recurring of the pseudo-solutions is to say that this adaptiveness, this obvious and striking purposefulness of body structures and functions, is due to some inscrutable principle, for which the fancy names "purpose," "life-force," or "soul," have been coined. or else, the adaptiveness of the living body to its environment has been without further ado declared an intrinsic property of living matter. This is precisely the pseudo-solution proposed for the so-called "First Law" stated by Lamarck: "By continued use, an organ in animals becomes greatly strengthened and enlarged to an extent which is proportional to the amount of its use. On the other hand, by continued disuse, an organ becomes weaker and deteriorates, finally disappearing.'

But why should use strengthen an organ? It was far too difficult a problem for Lamarok to solve. The way towards a scientific explanation of the wisdom of the body was blazed by Darwin, but only in recent years has a more satisfactory insight into the problem become possible. As we know, heredity transmits from parents to offspring not fixed characters or traits, but rather sets the reactions of the developing organism to the environment. In other words, we have not inherited from our parents a body temperature, but rather a pattern of physiological processes which react to temperature changes in the environment by maintaining a certain temperature. We have not inherited the healing of wounds or knitting of fractured bones, but rather a pattern of reactions which are set in operation by injuries and fractures. And we do not transmit to our children antibodies to cope with every infection, but instead we give them a capacity to respond to infection by an elaboration of antibodies.

It is the genotype that determines the reactions of the organism to different environments. The fitness of the carrier of a given genotype is, then, dependent on the usefulness or harmfulness of that genotype's reactions in the environments which the carrier encounters during its life, up to the close of its reproductive age. Countless genotypes with different reaction patterns are formed in every species by mutation and sexual reproduction. Natural selection perpetuates the genotypes which react to promote survival and reproduction in the environments which the species encounters more or less regularly in the territory which it inhabits. Selection fails to perpetuate the genotypes which yield less successful phenotypes. Many genotypes react favorably in some environments but unfavorably in others; some of them are so specialized that they survive only in a narrow range of environments. The evolutionary fate of such narrow specialists will depend on the abundance of environments to which they are adapted, and on the degree of superiority which they achieve in these specialized environments.

The "wisdom of the body" is, then, not a mysterious gift or an inherent property of all life. This "wisdom" has been built slowly and painfully in the long process of evolution and is controlled by natural selection. The lack of inherent purposefulness in living things becomes strikingly apparent if an organism is placed in artificial environments or in environments which the species has seldom if ever encountered in its evolutionary history. The responses of the organism in such new environments are far from always being adaptive. Thus, tropical plants and animals transferred to our climate die of cold weather, while native ones go into winter dormancy or are otherwise able to cope with the situation. This is exactly what should be expected; the genotypes of the inhabitants of the tropics have not been selected to respond adaptively to the stimulus of the cold. The human body reacts to protect itself against ultraviolet radiation of moderate intensity. It is, however, defenseless against X rays and radium rays. A human being is unable to subsist on many diets which are satisfactory to some animals; for example, we cannot live long on a diet of raw grass or browse on foliage.

The main point is that the appeal to purposeful intentions does not explain the evolution of any living species in the science of biology. The science of biology gives no warrant for the belief that the evolution of life as a whole had as its purpose the production of man. Evolution does not strive to accomplish any particular purpose or to reach any specific goal except the preservation of life itself. Evolution did not happen according to a pre-determined plan. Considered biologically, man arose because of the action of the very same blind forces which bring about the evolution of all other organisms. Natural selection responded to the challenge of environment ~ opportunity, and compounded an adaptively highly successful genotype from genetic elements contributed ultimately by mutation. In a sense, the origin of man was a lucky accident. Evolution is not repeatable, because a slight difference either in the environment or in the genetic materials might have resulted in something different from man.

The Reply of Whitehead for Chardin

In rejecting purposeful striving for an end as an explanation of life, Dobzhansky is agreeing with all who voice the common opinion of physical and chemical laboratories that no consideration of purpose should be allowed as a scientific explanation. However, as a question of scientific methodology, Whitehead, the noted scientist-mathematician and philosopher who co-wrote Principia Mathematica with Bertrand Russell and who also wrote books on phsyics and relativity in the second decade of the 20th century, has argued that there can be no doubt that the scientists have been right. But we must distinguish between

In affirming that scientists are wrong in completely excluding purpose as an explanation, Whitehead is objecting to the position described as materialism. Materialism ascribes the power of complexification to an automatic (blind, purposeless) force which forces matter to complexify itself by the statistical operation of chance. This materialism holds that in the transformation of matter and energy which constitute the activities of an animal body no principles can be discerned other than those which govern the activities of inorganic matter.

Whitehead tries to disprove materialism in the following way: The scientists are correct that no reactions between the material components of an animal body have been observed which in any way infringe the physical and chemical laws applying to the behavior of inorganic material. But this is a very different proposition from the doctrine that no additional principles can be involved. The two previous propositions are only identical on the supposition that the sort of physical principles involved are sufficient to determine definitely the particular activities of each physical body. The first proposition was that "no reactions in a living body break the laws which apply to inorganic bodies." This is identical with the proposition "no additional principles are involved" only if the laws which govern inorganic matter completely explain all activities of all species of living matter.

Whitehead is convinced that there is a mass of evidence which needs to be explained by the additional principle of purpose. The conduct of human affairs is entirely dominated by our recognition of foresight determining purpose, and purpose issuing in bodily conduct. This bodily conduct does not violate the laws of physics and chemistry and yet the purposeless laws of physics and chemistry hardly constitute an explanation of human purpose determining bodily conduct. The additional principle of "purpose" is needed to explain human purpose. The evidence is massive. Almost every sentence we utter and every judgment we form, presuppose our unfailing experience of purpose in our lives. The evidence is so overwhelming, the belief so decisive, that it is difficult to know where to begin in demonstrating it. For example, as I type out these notes, I intend to deliver it in class and place in on the WWW. Cut the explanatory principle of purpose, and this intention of mine is without meaning.

The objection of the naturalists would be to say that the exclusion of purpose as an explanatory principle is not meant to apply to the conduct of humans. Whitehead's reply is that human bodily conduct is bodily conduct and that if human bodily conduct can be determined by purpose, then so also can non-human, living conduct be determined by purpose. The naturalists would further object that humans should be explained in terms applicable to all forms of matter because humanity has gradually developed from the lowest forms of life. Whitehead's reply is that the factors operative in evolution may be more clearly evidenced in more complex organisms and that it is legitimate to reverse the analogy and explain the lower forms of matter by the higher forms.

It is a mistake to regard what is earlier in development as more real than what follows. The genetic method, which traces things back to their beginnings, is very useful if it does not cause us to neglect the more advanced stages. Of course, the whole process must be taken into account if we cannot explain later stages adequately or fully by the earlier stages. If we could see the earth as it was many millions of years ago, we would be impressed by the fact that no life was present. Later we might see life but no evidence of intelligent or free life. Of the first view, we would say that only mechanical forces were present. It would be observed still later that living organisms were present. Eventually the process produced humanity, with self-conscious purpose and deliberate creativity.

Aristotle once asked how one should study an oak tree. Where shall one start? Shall he start with the acorn or the young sapling, with the tree in its maturity or in its period of decay? Clearly all the processes belong to the concept "oak tree," and a mere description of its parts or a cross section of it at any one period does not describe the unity of the organism. For Aristotle, reality was a process of emergent evolution from potentiality to actuality. The later stages of an evolutionary process indicate most clearly the nature of the principles that have been present throughout the process. (Titus, Living Issues in Philosophy)

Whitehead continues his comments: The brilliant success of the methodological assumptions of physics and chemistry must be admitted. But we should not limit the problem by reason of being limited to one method. The problem is to understand the operations of an animal body. There is clear evidence that certain operations of certain animal bodies depend upon the foresight of an end and the purpose to attain it. It is no solution of the problem to ignore this evidence because other operations have been explained in terms of physical and chemical laws. The existence of a problem is not even acknowledged. It is vehemently denied. Many a scientist has patiently designed experiments for the purpose of substantiating his belief that animal operations are motivated by no purposes. Scientists animated by the purpose of proving that they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study.

The hypothesis of Chardin and Whitehead is that the principle of purpose is needed to explain purposeful organic behavior. In order to explain the rise of purposeful behavior in living matter out of apparently non-purposeful, non-living matter, non-living matter must be understood by analogy to living matter. Living matter shows purpose, especially in human behavior. Non-living matter does not show apparent purpose but yet must be understood as having purpose inherent in it although this purpose does not disclose itself in the units of matter which physics and chemistry study. It is only when these nonliving units of matter are viewed in relation to living matter, especially the human species, that the general hypothesis of purpose as an inherent factor in each unit of reality is needed. At this stage of the game in philosophizing, we must caution that our work is barely begun in trying to develop a coordinating hypothesis explanatory of man and the universe. Many other elements in the hypothesis need to be developed, and a careful verification of the hypothesis is needed again and again. Other possible hypotheses must be considered and eliminated on the basis of evidence.

The Watch in the Desert

OK, so if you found a watch lying in the desert, would you assume that it "spontaneously assembled" itself from the desert sand and rocks? Of course not! You would assume that it was made, or created, by a skilled watchmaker, and dropped there by him or someone else. The watch was clearly designed for a very specific purpose, by someone with great expertise, who knew exactly what he wanted ahead of time. Therefore, when we find something as perfectly designed as a living animal, it is utterly foolish to assume that it "spontaneously assembled itself" either. It had to be designed, in all its perfection, by some great designer. The mere existence of well-designed watches and animals is all the proof we should need that both were created by someone with infinitely more wisdom than the creations. Both, by their existence alone, imply the existence of a great designer or creator. Watches don't "just evolve", and neither do animals (or people); ergo, evolution is logically absurd (and, by extension, anyone who believes in it is an illogical idiot).

Anyway, that's sort of how the analogy usually goes. And it looks pretty good at first glance. I imagine a few evolution-minded folks have been taken aback by this one, the first time they heard it, not knowing quite how to answer it at the time. I'll also bet that some creationists see this as an irrefutable gem of logic that utterly destroys evolution and all its works.

Hold on a minute, though. Since this argument is presented in the form of an analogy, let's hold the creationist to his own logic, and see if the analogy holds up. For an analogy to make any logical sense at all, the two things being compared have to have a LOT in common, not just one salient feature. For instance, when we're considering the functioning of a living thing (like a person), an analogy is often drawn with a complex machine of some sort (like a watch, but a car works even better). Both need fuel, both produce heat and waste products, both wear out eventually, both turn chemical energy into mechanical energy, both have many small but critical parts, etc. But the watch-in-the-desert analogy is not about how the things work. It's about where they came from--or really, how they came to be. And when you think about that, you come to some interesting conclusions. Remember, it's supposed to work this way: because a watch doesn't spontaneously assemble and has to have a maker who made it just the way it is, therefore an animal can't spontaneously assemble either, and it, too, must have a maker who made it just the way it presently is.

Let's start with this: watches DIDN'T just appear in the world as they presently are! As a matter of very obvious fact, they evolved. The first timepieces were very primitive, clumsy, and inaccurate. They improved over the years. If we can refer to really old time-keeping devices as "fossils", then we can show a fossil sequence of the evolution of watches from some dim time in the past up to our present electronic wonders. Nowadays they evolve visibly from one year to the next. The watchmakers went through a whole, evolving series of clocks and watches before someone carelessly dropped one in that desert. So is this supposed to prove that the animal we find in the desert was made in its present form, with no significant changes over many generations? Am I missing something here?

Remember, the debate is really about whether evolution occurs, not about whether there's a creator behind it. A watchmaker (mankind) slowly developed (evolved) the sequence of timepieces. Maybe a Watchmaker slowly developed (evolved) the sequence of living things--you'll get no argument about that here. But the evolution happened in both cases. The message of that lost watch is NOT "I sprang up in my present perfection, with no primitive ancestors before me." It's more like "I'm at the end of a long chain of slowly evolving ancestors, and my descendants will continue to change."

Is finding a man-made watch in the desert supposed to somehow show that animals were created in their present forms by magic (or miracle) some few thousand years ago? What on Earth would lead us to that conclusion? The watch wasn't created by magic. In fact it was created by purely natural processes (as opposed to supernatural). If the creation of the watch really is analogous to the creation of living things, then what the analogy shows us is that the origin of both can be explained by natural processes.

Supernatural intervention could have been responsible for either or both, but that explanation certainly isn't necessary for the watch. If we hold the creationist to the logic of his own analogy, then what the analogy "proves", if it proves anything, is that well-designed "creations" can be produced naturally, in small, incremental steps: no magic required, thank you very much.

"But, but, but..." the creationist insists, "the point of the analogy is that things like watches and animals don't spontaneously assemble!" Well, that's half right, and here's where the analogy breaks down. Any analogy can only be stretched so far. The car stops being analogous to the human body when you start talking about thought or emotions. And watches stop being analogous to animals when you start talking about how the individual item is assembled. Watches, after all, never have little baby watches! An individual watch is, of course, always assembled by something outside itself (a human watchmaker, although nowadays it's more likely to be industrial robots). All the animals I've ever seen have assembled themselves, quite literally! They take in (usually) nonliving material from their environments, chemically process it, and turn it into parts of the living animal. In the case of mammals like us, the only parts of us that are directly made by someone else are the sperm and egg cells that unite and subdivide into our first few cells. After that, for the rest of our lives, we take in material from the outside, and assemble it ourselves into parts of us. Early on, that material is supplied by our mother, but she doesn't make us: she just supplies the raw material. We absorb it, manipulate it, build ourselves, and get rid of what we don't need.

OK, I know, the point is the first animal. How could it get started? All presently living animals are started off with bits of already-living matter created by their parents. Nonliving chemicals don't spontaneously assemble, don't create orderly, complex molecules out of simple elements... Don't they? If the creationist gets to this point, he has revealed his basic ignorance of simple chemistry. Elements and simple molecules combine spontaneously all the time to form more complex molecules. When was the last time you found any loose hydrogen on the Earth, or fluorine? All of it has spontaneously combined with other elements to form more complex molecules. If you turn some loose, it won't stay uncombined for long. Carbon atoms, especially, have a tendency to form spontaneously into all kinds of complex molecules, which in turn often combine to form very complicated polymers and mega-molecules. Some of those combinations are even self-replicating, if the raw materials are available. We don't commonly see molecules assembling themselves into living systems, but then it only had to happen once--from then on the natural tendency of life has been to keep itself going, spread out, and evolve. When you get down to the level of molecules, or small collections of them, the dividing line between living and nonliving gets pretty fuzzy. As a matter of fact, one of the basic criteria used in modern biology to distinguish living from nonliving complex systems, is that truly living systems are capable of evolving as they reproduce.

And, if we are committed to the idea of a Creator, He certainly could have been the one to arrange that first unlikely combination. He could have even directed all the evolution since then. Again, the point of the tired, old watch-in-the-desert analogy was supposed to be that evolution does not and could not occur. But watches have evolved; they aren't created miraculously, ex nihilo; and their inability to self-assemble has nothing to do with the obvious ability of chemical compounds and living things to assemble themselves out of available materials. So how is it again that finding a man-made watch is supposed to prove that animals were created in their present forms?

Links to other excellent sources of information on evolution

R. J. Riggins
Use or repost at your pleasure, just leave my name on it, please.


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